Making Elderberry Winter Tonic Syrup with Fresh Elderberries

Elderberry Winter Tonic 3

Nature is so perfect.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that cascades of elderberries have grown ripe just as the season changes to fall– right before cold and flu season?  I think not.  Now is the time to go out and gather as many of these potent, juicy anti-virals as you can.  You can dry them, freeze them, or make medicine with them right away.  I am doing all of the above– I have dried a few cups to use in teas on cold days, I have just made some Elderberry Winter Tonic, and I will continue to gather and freeze as long I keep seeing them, since I can store them in the freezer and make more medicine or add them to fresh juices in the winter, keeping  up my family’s immunity all the way until summertime.  Of course, I have already used about six pounds-worth for making Elderberry Wine– what an incredibly pleasant way to take my medicine (wink!)

Making Elderberry Winter Tonic

Making an elderberry winter tonic for your family is really pretty simple.  I used to pay a ton of money for this very same medicine each year before I knew how to make my own.  These instructions are for fresh elderberries, but you can also use dried ones, in case there aren’t any elder trees in your area.  Even if you need to buy the berries instead of collecting them for free, it’s a much cheaper option for getting this great medicine, and totally worth the small effort of making it.  And one more thing… it’s delicious.

What You’ll Need

Elderberries
Fresh Ginger, grated: 1 Tablespoon per cup of berries (or 1 teaspoon if you are using dried ginger)
Ground Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon per cup of berries
Ground Cloves:  1/4 teaspoon per cup of berries
Raw Honey, preferably local: 1/2 cup per cup of berries

What to Do:

1.  Gather the elderberries, or order dried organic elderberries online and skip to the 3rd step.  Look for clusters of black berries on red stems to ensure that they are fully ripe.
2.  Use a fork to pull the berries from their stems, collecting them in a pot.  Pull out as many small bits of stem as you can, but don’t get obsessive about it.  Give them a little rinse.
3.  Add water– 1:1 cups water-to berry ratio for fresh, and 2:1 for dried.
4.  Add ginger, ground cinnamon and cloves.
5.  Bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, then allow to cool.
6.  Strain the liquid from the berries using a sieve, pressing on with a wooden spoon to get all of the juice out.
7.  Add raw honey– local, if possible for the best health benefits– to the elderberry liquid.  Stir until well mixed, and decant into jars or bottles (these are my favorite.)  Store in the refrigerator.

Take a teaspoonful daily during cold and flu season, or use it in delicious ways: as a pancake syrup, mixed into yogurt, as a drink mixer… There are so many ways to enjoy it, so even if you never get sick, it’s a fun thing to have on hand.

Wishing you robust health through the cozy months…

Elderberry Winter Tonic 2

This post was shared at: Fat Tuesday, Small Footprint Friday.
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26 Responses to Making Elderberry Winter Tonic Syrup with Fresh Elderberries

  1. Eileen Powell September 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Thanks for this!! I give my Son elderberry syrup that we bought but would love to make my own. Do you know if this is safe to take while pregnant?

    • Ariana Mullins September 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      You’re welcome, Eileen. I know that almost all herbal supplement bottles have the disclaimer not to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. I personally would take it, but you should probably talk to your naturopath/ doctor and do a little research to see what you feel is best.

    • Alyssa McCord September 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      Definitely talk to an herbalist. However, my midwife who is also an herbalist told me that elderberry is fine for pregnancy.

  2. Michelle September 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I would like to try this! I have several questions, though – for the ginger, should it be sliced thinly? How much honey do you put it in it? (Just to taste?) And can my 17 month old boy take this? Thanks so much!

    • Ariana Mullins September 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Hi Michelle,
      Let’s answer some questions! Yes, you can thinly slice the ginger. Mine was grated with a microplaner, and I’ll update the post to say that– but I have just chopped/ sliced mine up in the past. Honey is according to how much berries you’re using. If you are using one cup of fresh berries, then use 1/2 cup of honey. It’s not an exact science though, so if that seems too sweet to you, you can do less. And yes, this is safe for children and babies, according to what I have looked up. This is the article that was most clear: http://voices.yahoo.com/fight-colds-flu-elderberry-safe-children-2277291.html

      I’m glad you’ll try it! It’s good medicine. :)

    • CraftingLily October 1, 2013 at 4:04 am #

      Just don’t use it for babies under a year because of the honey!

    • CraftingLily October 1, 2013 at 4:06 am #

      This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Rois September 24, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Thanks for leading me down the road to try something new.Although we missed elderberries (this year,next year I WILL get some.) I have a freezer over full of red currants,their juice is good for colds too. So this year I am going to use your recipe but use our red currants.
    Thanks again for inspiration.

    • Ariana Mullins September 24, 2013 at 6:13 am #

      Oh, good idea using the red currants! I’m glad you’ll try it– it’s fun brewing your own medicine. Made me feel like a good witch. :)

  4. Heidi W September 24, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    We bought some elderberry bushes this year so they aren’t producing yet…I’m excited to try this although I recently read something about how elderberries are poisonous if they aren’t Cooked and that leaves and twigs are also. They said not deadly but nausea causing. What do you know about this?

    • Ariana Mullins September 24, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      Hi Heidi,
      I have heard this concern about elder before… In Europe, people don’t seem quite as concerned about it, and I wonder if it has to do with the species– but I have never heard anyone recommending eating the leaves, bark or stems… I read that some people who made whistles out of the green branches got sick. (Random, right?) I found the wikipedia entry for Sambucus Negra, which is what grows here and might also be what you have planted. The ripe berries are just fine, and everyone says to avoid the unripe ones. Interestingly, the bark and stems are said to be poisonous, yet, are also used as medicine, particularly for bronchitis. If you have any doubts or concerns, just be sure to pick very ripe berries, and then cook them for whatever you’re doing– the smell is wonderful!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus_nigra

    • Ariana Mullins September 24, 2013 at 7:34 am #

      Just wanted to add– it’s the stembark and roots that are used for making medicines for bronichitis, not the tree bark. The article said “all green parts are poisonous” and the stems turn bright red when the berries are ripe, so perhaps they don’t fall into the toxic category.

    • Heidi W September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks! I’ll check that article out!

  5. nikki butler September 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I have a batch from last year in the fridge. Still good or start over?

    • Ariana Mullins October 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      Nikki, honey is an excellent preservative, but everything has its limits. Give it the look, smell, taste tests, in that order. Throw it out right away if it looks moldy or smells bad. If it looks and smells good, give it a taste. If it’s still good, then go ahead and use it!

  6. Amanda B. December 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Do the cloves have a medicinal purpose or are they mainly for taste? I don’t have any on hand and wondered if it was necessary.

    • ariana January 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Hi Amanda, the cloves do have a medicinal purpose, but you could still make this without. The cloves are anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and can soothe a sore throat because they can cause slight numbing.

  7. Melinda B January 29, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to forage for your own elderberries! I live in Southern Nevada, so no fresh elderberries. =) I bought dried ones online this year and made syrup. My family is wild about it! They beg for it every day. Only one person in our family of four has gotten a cold this year. I don’t know…could it be the syrup? Maybe the bone broth too. Thanks for the article!

    • ariana February 3, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      I never foraged for elderberries until we moved here! I think they were probably growing around us in Oregon, but I didn’t have the knowledge to identify them. It’s great that your family loves it– my daughter does, too!

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